‘Don’t believe the spin: scandal of costs overrun at the National Children’s Hospital is hurting vital local health projects’ – TD
THE scandal of the costs overrun at the National Children’s Hospital is affecting the delivery of vital health projects in Kilkenny and Carlow – despite the Government’s claims to the contrary, according to a local TD.
Kilkenny TD Kathleen Funchion spoke out as she launched a scathing attack on what she described as the Government’s “litany of broken promises” on key local health projects.
Health Minister Simon Harris (pictured below) and local TD and junior minister John Paul Phelan have insisted the children’s hospital overspending scandal is not affecting projects such as the MRI scanner at St Luke’s General Hospital, the community nursing unit at St Columba’s and the delivery of 72 additional beds at St Luke’s.
However, Deputy Funchion said the evidence – and the consistent lack of delivery on these vital health projects – says otherwise.
“I simply don’t buy it. People are sick and tired of hearing these same promises being regurgitated time and time again, but the facts speak for themselves,” she said.
“I fully believe the reason for the delay for all of the vitally important local projects is due to the spiralling cost of the National Children’s Hospital, which is now set to surpass a staggering €2 billion.
“The Government loves to make these sporadic announcements so people believe these projects will be delivered, but then months, even years, pass by without any progress whatsoever.”
Deputy Funchion, who is also her party’s frontbench spokesperson on children, said local hospital services have suffered major cuts in the lifetime of the last two Fine Gael-led Governments.
The Kilkenny TD said this has resulted in worsening overcrowding at St Luke’s, the closure of the Gynaecology Ward and serious problems at the “underfunded” maternity unit, which “badly needs to be upgraded”.
“Things have gotten progressively worse in recent years, but the Government keeps on spinning, making the same empty promises while our health services suffer,” added Deputy Funchion.
“Aside from the huge issues at St Luke’s, we’ve seen the downgrading of service at Kilcreene Hospital, home help hours suspended, chronic overcrowding and very poor conditions in the Department of Psychiatry, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists’ posts left vacant … the list goes on.”
Since her election to the Dáil, Deputy Funchion has been very vocal on local, national – and women’s – health issues. She was the only sitting local TD to publicly campaign in favour of repealing the eighth amendment, which was carried by an overwhelming 63.5% of voters in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency. “I also have no difficulty standing up for women’s health, and I think the repeal campaign proved that,” she said. “Others literally ran away and didn’t have the courage to back up their own beliefs.”
In terms of her own party’s health policies, Deputy Funchion said Sinn Féin are supportive of the Slaintécare Programme, the cross-party plan to improve our health services. Specifically, Sinn Féin are calling for;
*Two free GP visits per year for everyone without a GP or medical card;
*Universal access to free counselling on a GP referral basis;
*The immediate recruitment of an additional 500 nurses and midwives;
*An additional 500 hospital beds;
*All cancer patients to be automatically given medical cards.
Deputy Funchion (pictured below with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and former MEP Liadh Ní Riada) is also campaigning to upgrade our local maternity services and to reopen psychiatry services in Carlow and Clonmel, which have heaped huge pressure on mental health services in Kilkenny.
Most of the work she does is outside of the glare of the public spotlight. “If I say I’m going to help out, I do it and I generally don’t make a big deal out it,” the Kilkenny TD adds.
“I work closely with groups such as ‘Enough is Enough – Every Voice Counts’ in trying to ensure that children with special needs have equal access to education, and a whole range of other important issues that often don’t get the attention they deserve. I want to see positive change, and I believe we can affect these changes if the will is there for confront the serious problems our health system faces.”